It's definitely the purple-gold season. I wasn't prepared for picking quite so soon, but when we drove up Pack River Saturday and started seeing cars (some with Washington licenses) parked alongside the road every 50 feet, I knew something was up.
"They're picking huckleberries," Bill said. "There's lots of huckleberries this year." I was immediately incensed. We hadn't brought a bucket. We'd planned to hike and geocache. Bill had also brought his new fly rod purchased Friday afternoon at the recently-opened sport shop behind Alpine Motors. So, I was figuring he'd give it a try in the river.
Of course, geocaching holds prominence over every other recreational activity these days with Bill. So, we pulled off the main Pack River Road, past the bridge onto the Pearson Creek Road. He stopped the pickup.
"Whaddya going to do?" I asked, knowing we had several choices.
"There's a geocache here," he said while reaching back to get his red pack and his GPS. Oops, no red pack. No GPS. Sad-faced husband. No geocaching.
So, on to the next option. I had a stereofoam coffee cup. He had a plastic bag for the ice he had poured in the ice chest to keep our beverages cold.
"Why don't you use this bag and pick huckleberries while I go fishing?" he suggested. He knew that his wife, the world's biggest chicken, would need the pickup keys because he knew she'd have to be within sight of the pickup, in case some furry or horned creature came tromping through the woods and scared the bejesus out of her.
So, we drove up and down the road and picked out a nice huckleberry spot with flat surface about a mile south of the bridge. Then, it was back to the bridge to drop him off. My picking spot was close enough to those Washington cars to hear impatient kids letting their huckleberry picking moms know they wanted to go home. It was far enough away, though, that I had the patch of loaded-down bushes of purple wealth all to myself.
It was great picking---especially because a torrent of rain from an earlier thunderstorm had thoroughly washed the berries, which would normally be coated with dust from roadway traffic. The fresh, moist and cool air ensured that there'd be no bugs to annoy me either. My coffee cup runneth over within minutes, sending me to the truck to unload its contents into the plastic bag on ice.
Later, another lightning show, with its booming thunder and heavy showers, interrupted my picking and Bill's fishing. By that time, I'd picked three coffee cupfuls of berries, and he'd caught five throwaways with his new ROD. We drove around for a few minutes, and when it stopped raining, we both braved the wet bushes and picked more berries. Later, as we neared the bridge, he suggested I might want to pick even some more. I knew what his generous offer meant: he wanted to fish some more.
As he headed downstream on the beautiful Pack River, I found a spot just off the road by the bridge, not more than 50 feet from the pickup and spent the next 45 minutes filling cup after cup with fat, juicy berries. I literally milked the bushes above my head.
My diet that afternoon consisted of half a box of extra-cheesy Cheez-its chomped down during the ride home and a large huckleberry sundae which confirmed a definite absolute for this year's huckleberry crop.
The berries are abundantly flavorful, and there should be plenty for everyone.